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Memo to Members

A regular update to RIBA Members from 2021-2023 President, Simon Allford.

Memo to Members – Monday 28 August 2023


This is my final memo as my time as RIBA President draws to a close.  

Three years ago, I declared that 'we should storm the building and take it back for architects and Architecture'. And when I arrived at RIBA, Architecture had indeed all but disappeared: Council was consumed, the Board blocked, and staff morale was understandably on the floor. The RIBA was locked in a battle with intransigent forces within. The RIBA was failing - and this failure was, quite unforgivably, instigated by those who were supposed to be leading the institute. 

Watch my speech reflecting on 600+ days as RIBA President

Three years on, things are very different. Council is focused on the issues of the day, Board has stopped the financial rot, protected the NBS monies in an endowment, and is planning for the long term, and we have a new CEO and staff leadership team. Crucially, all are working collaboratively to create a dynamic twenty-first century Institute of Ideas. So, I am looking forward to stepping down, but also, to staying on Board - literarily and metaphorically - to help the team deliver the House of Architecture. In the short term, I will be on Board for another year. For the longer term, I will have a role as a part of the client team that will be responsible with our professional advisors for the delivery of the House of Architecture – in physical and digital form. Importantly, I have every confidence that, with a fair wind in these difficult times, the new President, Council, Chair, Board and Executive team will keep things moving forward.

Architecture - the state of play

As an architect, I believe Architecture matters – though we must never assume and must always test and prove our beliefs. A reinvigorated profession is vital to the future of Architecture, and a reinvigorated RIBA has a vital role to play.

Architecture is always under threat. Grenfell demands we reform construction. The aftereffects of Covid ricochet on, and war in Ukraine threatens the peace that we too readily assumed. Uncertainty and economic instability has hit hard but also encouraged reflection – which brings to mind the comment of the First Sea Lord in 1917: ‘Gentleman, we have run out of money. Now we have to think’, and in 2023 we must think hard! Over 150 years ago Darwin wrote that ‘The species that survives is the one that is best able to adapt to, and to adjust best to, the changing environment in which it finds itself’. Today 38% of the world’s CO2 emissions are the product of the built environment, so, as we adapt as a profession, we can have a hugely beneficial impact. This is not Architecture’s project alone: collaboration with the wider world of clients, consultants, contractors, manufacturers, regulators, the public and government is essential.

So, what does this mean for the day-to-day practice of Architecture? Reinvention and re-use will play an ever more important part, and we have recognised this with the introduction of a new RIBA Reinvention Award. We will of course also need to build new. For healthy places to live, learn, work and play are still in short supply. But we will build them differently. Fifty years ago, former president Alex Gordon coined the mantra ‘Long Life, Loose Fit, Low Energy’. Today, above all else, we must design for Longer Life, for Looser Fit, and for Lower Carbon. Gordon was also correct when he declaimed that the future ‘means more climbing on other people’s shoulders and less ad hoc originality’. Architecture has never been about style, shape or derring-do and always about designing appropriately and delightfully.

So, looking ahead, acknowledging Vitruvius and Alberti, we must pursue a delightful forever Architecture; to which nothing need be added, and from which nothing can be taken away - Architecture as infrastructure for, and generous host to, ‘the theatre of everyday life’.

So, what of the profession?

Fifty years ago, Alex Gordon spoke of a very different, self-governing profession, working in a world of fixed fees and public works. There are, however, constants. Sadly, Gordon also spoke of ‘RIBA’s petty internal squabbles’ – plus ça change. But more importantly, he spoke of total design. Of value not cost. Of the need for good clients. And of Architecture's responsibility to society. In those heady days of fixed fees, he chose the title ‘Architecture for love or money’ – a brave choice. For then, as now, the commercial drivers of Architecture are too easily disregarded – and the profession pays the heavy price! Yes, Architecture drives us. But money fuels both that drive and its construction. Indeed, I know from experience that bad cashflow destroys creativity!

So, stronger finances of institute and profession are essential. They will make us more attractive to future generations. They will allow us to reverse our long retreat into an ever more confined role - exploited by others who are willing to take on the challenges that we consider too humdrum, too commercial even! Moving ahead, we must change. We must recognize that money is the constraint that can become the driver of architectural invention (and reinvention) - and of a more confident, capable, and commercially respected profession.

RIBA - our institute, and what it is doing for Architecture

The RIBA is an august institute with a long history of not quite achieving what it set out to do. Fundamentally changing the way it operates, given its rules, regulations, new constitution, royal charter AND charitable status has been like trying to change the course of a supertanker. And it has been really, very difficult. But working together we have changed course – and completely. The organisation better understands its structure, with Council keeping a watchful eye on the horizon, and focusing through its nimble Expert Advisory Groups on the issues of the day. There is now a focus on what a good institute looks like. I have often been told that a two-year presidential term is too short. I can assure you that two years is long and feels more than long enough!

Putting the struggles aside, and they carry on at great expense - perhaps they always will - it is important to note that the RIBA's structure now allows both long-term thinking and immediate action. The Biennial Action Plan, which emerged from my campaign manifesto, has helped our longer-term focus on creating the House of Architecture at RIBA: rethinking our attitude to our Collections, currently scattered in five locations; and reinventing both our permanent home, here at 66 Portland Place and its digital twin.

Since its inception in 1834, the RIBA has amassed one of the world’s greatest and most complete collections of architectural artefacts. It includes 1.6 million photographs, 150,000 books, 15,000 journals, 5,000 rare books, 1,000 objects and artefacts, 1.5 million manuscripts and archive documents, 500 coins and medals (and a glut of silver tableware), and 1 million architectural drawings. Of the 400 Palladio drawings known to exist, courtesy of Lord Burlington, we have 380!

This collection is our defining asset - priceless and of huge value to the profession and society - and a vehicle to connect both. It also represents the RIBA’s future as a cultural, as well as a professional, institute. An institute whose mission - as per our Charter - stands apart from professional self-interest and focuses on Architecture’s role in designing a delightful low carbon future.

So, we have a great opportunity, which is why we have put in place a sensible and achievable financial plan, safeguarding our endowment, and allowing us to address the years of neglect. We also have a significant responsibility to look after the remarkable collection our predecessors bequeathed and to make sure the collection also represents the best of today.

By taking the opportunity and fulfilling our responsibility, we can create an historical continuum; our collection will be widely available and in an analogue and digital format. It will be accessible to all irrespective of their means, background, or location. It can be used, re-used and enjoyed by members, practices, individuals, researchers, communities, students, schoolchildren, businesses and policy and decision-makers - it is not coincidence that the last two Royal Gold Medallists both referenced our Library and collection as a place and source of learning. Then the RIBA becomes an accessible global research centre.

Of equal import to sharing and celebrating the collections, is taking responsibility for 66 Portland Place. It is our forever home - well, almost, as we have but 910 years left on the lease! Our physical HQ is, as suggested by its Grade 2 star listing, a great asset. But its much-neglected current condition ill befits its role as home to the architectural profession and our collection. It is leaky, failing environmentally and acoustically. Its services, many original, are decayed and at end of life. Its 27 different levels are not accessible to wheelchair users, it has inadequate toilets, limited amenity and an ‘open plan’ fire escape strategy that severely limits its use. This is not a vanity project; we do not have a choice. Indeed, we of all professions have a duty to discover and demonstrate what an exemplary net zero reinvention project looks like: what must be done; how it can be best done; and to what great effect we have done it.

The House of Architecture establishes a reinvigorated RIBA as an outward-looking learned society and cultural institution. A generous host to discourse: a place where ideas about the design of our low carbon future are developed and shared - with members, partners, the public and government.

That is the big picture, but what of the detail? As Mies declared, God lies in the detail! Progress on this strategy has already resulted in our dramatically reducing our property footprint. We have sold 76 Portland Place so we can bring staff, members and the public back to 66 Portland Place. We will soon be sharing RIBA North at Mann Island, Liverpool, in a creative partnership with the Tate.

Moving ahead, we will perform better as an organisation. Governance and process will be appropriately scrutinised, but not at the cost of Architecture, operations, or the sanity of those involved. We will invest in a proper IT platform; one that will better support our current model of sharing talks, debates, and exhibitions online. Our better-connected activities will become ever-stronger drivers of professional and public engagement. This will develop further when - for the duration of the works - we vacate our HQ and make plans to go on the road.

Importantly, we are working harder to support existing members and attract new ones. We are strengthening our Practice in a Box initiative, supporting single practitioners and small practices. We are working on a PII proposal, that has the potential to address this major financial and operational challenge, and this will lead to more readily adoptable forms of the Architects Appointment and other model contracts for employment. We are simplifying and enhancing our membership offer, creating a path from students to retirees that recognises a more fluid dynamic profession - with its global and local structures. And by engaging with those who do not practice but who care about Architecture we will build ever stronger connections with the public.

In education, as in practice, detail matters. We are harnessing our membership’s talents and commitment, and supporting their engagement with primary and secondary school pupils. We are supporting new models for architectural education here and abroad - so barriers between institute, practice and academe are blurred and may disappear. Personally, I am a fan of the architectural degree - as a good general degree and a springboard to a host of different careers. Whilst recognising the success of the classic degree and diploma route, we would like to see a structure that allows students to qualify within five years – by many combinations of apprenticeships, degrees, masters, and earn-and-learn courses (the latter offered by schools of Architecture and practices). We are engaged with ARB as we are concerned that their accreditation model neither speeds things, nor by doubling up, does it allow new courses to emerge. That said, we appreciate that ARB and The Department for Business and Trade have established new Mutual Recognition Agreements with Australia, Canada, and America (excluding a few states), and progress is being made with the EU. This will particularly help the next generation to study and work in practices around the world - which is vital to the import and export of ideas. Moving ahead, whilst recognising the need for core skills and competencies, we also know that architects of tomorrow will face challenges different to those of today’s curriculum.

Mies also declared ‘less is more’ and at RIBA, we continuously review what we can do well, and what is best left to the profession. We know that engagement with government on policy is a core activity that members value, and this is something that a ‘disinterested’ RIBA can do better than an individual or practice. So, we have rebuilt our Policy and Public Affairs team. We employ a more engaged, critically intelligent voice to open doors to government at many levels; we attend and host meetings with ministers of state from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Treasury, to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. By hosting events on key government interests such as design codes, we are able to influence the direction of travel. We are also now working on multiple levels within the Construction Leadership Council, which is itself close to government. Our global awards programme has an important reach and sets the standard for studying Architecture in use - how it performs for people and the environment.

But we know we can still do more to promote better standards in design, which is why, internationally, we are ever more connected and engaged. At the recent UIA World Congress of Architects conference in Copenhagen, we hosted and facilitated a debate ‘beyond carbon’ - with a global spread of speakers from nine institutes. In all this, we are leading the way on connecting and sharing. We are an open source. Our award of the Royal Gold Medal to Balkrishna Doshi and then Yasmeen Lari presents our global perspective. Both architects are a reminder that Architecture is about service to society over the long term.

Practical changes are important too – though Mies never declared anything so humdrum! We are improving our venues offer and technical acoustic performance - soon, I hope. The House of Architecture is ever more open to everyone, from schoolchildren to major industry bodies. This, of course, is your House of Architecture, so we have created significant discounts primarily for Members of the RIBA but also, as we continue to host the wider debate, for friends of the RIBA.

On climate change, we are beyond declarations; now is the time for practical action to drive the project that Buckminster Fuller termed the ‘Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth’. With our RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge embraced by the wider industry, we are now leading partners in the next step - the launch of the NZCBS - another anagram that will become more familiar - the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard. We have invested time, money and intelligence in this vital pan-industry tool that will establish a standard for measuring embodied and operational energy and, crucially, create a potential data lake of predicted and actual performance – this tool has global potential. The NZCBS also happens to be chaired by an RIBA member, David Partridge, who is a leading client. Proof, if ever needed, that Architecture is great training for the world beyond just designing buildings! And a reminder to us that the RIBA needs to better connect to its diaspora – those who have studied Architecture and gone on to do other things in related and unrelated fields.

This focus on architectural action is reflected in our updated mission statement: our appropriately ambitious vision is ‘to be the world’s leading centre for excellence in the design of the built environment. Promoting sustainability, building safety, diversity, and inclusion, as we strive for a better future for all communities and the planet’.

Like all members, I am just passing through. I ended up here because I articulated my frustration. Past President Jack Pringle shared my concern, and together we have worked with the equally committed wider team of Council, Board, Committee members and staff to establish the long-term plan. The plan that will enable the RIBA to move to the next level in fulfilling its membership’s needs and its Charter commitment. Shared ambitions are now embedded in the Institute’s organisational structure and mindset, and just as crucially, they are embedded in the plans for the Institute’s Architecture. Architecture has its limits, but as we above all must believe, it can help define and accommodate a better future. With the engagement of members old and new, the re-modelled RIBA will play an ever increasingly vital role in helping us all design that better future for everybody, since everybody is a citizen of the built environment.

All the best,


Memo to Members – Monday 3 July 2023


I hope you are all keeping well.   

Remembering Grenfell, six years on 

Wednesday 14 June marked six years since the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people lost their lives. Chair of the Board Jack Pringle told reporters that the anniversary “should remind us of our responsibility to ensure such a tragedy is never repeated”. Speaking to media including ITV London News (from 1:25), Times Radio and MailOnline, Jack highlighted our campaign to ensure that buildings are as safe as possible for the future – including our joint call for an 18 metre threshold for new residential buildings to be required to have a second staircase. 

Yasmeen Lari receives her Royal Gold Medal 

We were delighted to welcome Yasmeen Lari to 66 Portland Place last month to receive the Royal Gold Medal 2023, awarded in honour of her remarkable career, and work championing zero carbon and self-build concepts for displaced populations. Her visit included an in-conversation event, which you can watch here. The ceremony was followed by a celebratory evening event and dinner. You can listen to Yasmeen speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on the eve of the award. On a personal level, it was an honour to chair the committee that selected Yasmeen for the award – the first to be personally approved by His Majesty The King. Watch our exclusive film about Yasmeen's life and work

Our National Awards 

The busy awards season continues, with winners of our National Awards announced on Thursday 22 June. As ever, this year’s projects demonstrate the incredible breadth and diversity of the UK’s architecture, which is a joy to see.   

What happens when the architect leaves the building? 

Last month, we opened our summer exhibition, The Architect Has Left The Building at 66 Portland Place, showcasing work by photographer and filmmaker Jim Stephenson. The fascinating dual-screen film installation reveals how people use the spaces created by architecture, when left to their own devices. The exhibition will run until 12 August, and I highly encourage you to stop by if you are in town this summer. 

Pride Month 

June marked Pride Month, and we’ve been highlighting and celebrating the work of LGBTQ+ communities in the built environment. RIBA teamed up with Architecture LGBT+ for a breakfast event before the Pride in London march on Saturday 1 July. Taking place at the University of Westminster in Marylebone, it was a great chance for members and friends to socialise ahead of the parade.  

House of Architecture  

Our House of Architecture programme includes transforming our London building, bringing together our world-class collections, and developing a virtual programme that will expand our digital reach and accessibility, on a global scale - find out more about our plans.  

We have both a great opportunity and a significant responsibility. We must look after what our predecessors bequeathed and make sure the collection represents the best of today – creating an historical continuum. 

RIBA then becomes an accessible global research centre. It is not by chance that the last two Royal Gold Medallists referenced our library and collection as a place and a source of learning.  

Our collections must be available to be used, enjoyed, and re-used extensively by members, practices, individuals, researchers, communities, students, schoolchildren, businesses, and policy- and decision-makers. They must be available to all, irrespective of means, background, or location - widely available in analogue and digital format. 

Until next time,  


Memo to Members – Monday 22 May 2023

Hello all,  

I begin this week’s note with an invitation to join our celebrations in honour of Pakistan’s first female architect, Professor Yasmeen Lari, who will receive the Royal Gold Medal. This award – the first to be personally approved by His Majesty The King – recognises Yasmeen’s work championing zero carbon, self-build concepts for displaced populations. It was a pleasure to chair the Honours Committee - which comprised Ivan Harbour, architect and senior partner at RSHP; Cornelia Parker CBE RA; Neal Shasore, Chief Executive and Head of School at the London School of Architecture, and Cindy Walters, architect and partner at Walters & Cohen - who made the decision unanimously. We have two very special events taking place in London next month to honour Yasmeen, and I invite you to join in. You can sign up to attend a special ‘In Conversation with Yasmeen Lari event’ on 12 June, which will be available to watch afterwards - and/or you can join us for a celebratory evening event and dinner on 13 June.  

Next, I wanted to share an update on our policy and public affairs work. It’s been a busy period.   

We hosted a networking event at RIBA in London, in conjunction with the Department for Business and Trade and ARB, on 25 April, to celebrate two recently signed Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). We discussed what the UK-US MRA and the newly signed UK-Australia-New Zealand trilateral MRA mean for architects. I highlighted the need for greater portability of qualifications and the benefits of international talent coming to the UK to share and exchange expertise.  

It is positive that ARB has signed these new MRAs, but it must be made more straightforward for international architects to work in the UK. We need an immigration policy that supports architecture and the wider construction sector - RIBA continues to work with Government to make sure this is a reality.  

I recently met with South Australian Minister for Housing, Planning, Trade and Investment Nick Champion MP, with whom I had a productive talk about increasing education pathways for skilled workers in the sector, and the importance of embodied carbon regulation. I am confident that together we can improve opportunities for architects to work globally.  

On 3 May, I attended the Treasury Connect conference. With a focus on the creative industries sector, the event was co-chaired by Chancellor of the Exchequer the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP and the Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Rubbing shoulders with other creative industry organisations and leaders is vital – we are working hard to ensure architecture has a seat at the table.   


This month, we responded to ARB’s major consultation on education reform. Read my thoughts on the need for more accessible, flexible study routes without losing the architecture degree in Building Design, and see our full consultation response and blog for more detail.   


RIBA Regional Awards 2023 events have been taking place over the last couple of weeks and conclude on Thursday. RIBA awards have been running since 1966, and this is our annual opportunity to shine a light on the brilliant work that members are delivering all over the country, at all scales and budgets. It has been a pleasure looking at the shortlisted and winning projects – and I look forward to seeing which go through to the RIBA National Awards – to be announced on 22 June. Congratulations to all the award winners so far.   


Elected by RIBA members, RIBA Council is your main representative body. It is responsible for collecting insight from the profession to guide the strategic direction of the organisation. Each year, the elections are published and eligible members are encouraged to put themselves forward, nominate someone else and to vote. Nominations for some vacant seats have closed, but nominations for the roles of Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary are still open - until 4pm on 30 May.  

Participation in RIBA Council and RIBA governance more generally is incredibly fulfilling - you can help to shape the organisation you want to see and participate in productive discussions and decision making. From actions to tackle the climate emergency and PII crisis, to improving access to the profession and driving change on EDI, I strongly encourage all members to get involved.   

Member support  

Great news this month as funding has now been allocated to support grassroots member activity. Following consultation with volunteer members, our 2023 Local Initiative Fund (LIF) was rebooted with an improved application process and a funding increase from £150,000 to £250,000. Reflecting the incredible enthusiasm of our volunteer networks, we saw an extraordinary range of submissions, with more than 150 project applications totalling over £550,000 in value. I am pleased to confirm that 125 applications have been supported by LIF this year, to support brilliant initiatives across the UK and through our international regions and chapters too.   

In memoriam  

I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to the late Squire & Partners Founder Michael Squire. His work not only changed the fabric of modern London, but I remember him for the dedication he invested in supporting our profession, and the work of the institute, for example through the countless hours he invested in judging our awards.   

Eurovision in Liverpool  

We were delighted to host Pride House Liverpool at RIBA North during the Eurovision Song Contest. We provided a community safe space, delivered by LCR Pride Foundation, featuring exhibitions including RIBA's OUT of Space - an exhibition collaboration between RIBA’s internal LGBTQ community group and the RIBA Library team. The exhibition presents collection images from architects and clients who designed spaces that expressed (or concealed) their identity.   

Venice Biennale 

I was in Venice last week, with my AHMM hat on, visiting the Biennale. Congratulations go to Director Lesley Lokko who I studied and taught with many years ago. We have remained friends and colleagues ever since as she has seamlessly moved from teaching to practice to writing novels (unrelated to architecture!) to then running an architecture school - first in Johannesburg and then CUNY in New York. Whilst putting this Biennale together Lesley has also been running The African Futures Institute in Ghana (an organisation which she founded).  

As ever, there was a wide range of work of different kinds on display in the Arsenale - which is Lesley’s focus as curator - and much of the long lunches and dinners was taken up sharing notes on personal favourites and disappointments. Which is as it always is! Well done also to the British Pavilion team - I had the pleasure of joining this year’s selection panel - and it was good to see how their initial response evolved into a suite of visually striking and distinct yet related architectural installations/objects/films.  

What was very different this year was the number of diverse and different voices given to younger architects - including two who work at AHMM. Congratulations to them and to their peers. 

And finally  

It would be remiss of me not to also congratulate my beloved Sheffield Wednesday - on the greatest ever comeback in the Play Offs - which made for a memorably different night in Venice! 

Until next time,  


Memo to Members – Monday 24 April 2023

Hello all,

We are entering an exciting week, as we gear up to announce what I believe is the world's highest award for architecture this Thursday- the much-anticipated 2023 Royal Gold Medallist. The recipient will be the first ever approved personally by His Majesty King Charles III. Keep an eye on @RIBA and your Member Update email to hear who will be presented with this prestigious award.  

On 4 May, people in England will vote in local elections. Charitable organisations like RIBA must take special care in the pre-election period to ensure political neutrality at this time of heightened scrutiny. Find out more about what this means for you.

22 April 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in a racist attack, In Stephen’s honour, we have proudly presented a prize in his name for 25 years. We look forward to developing plans with the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation in support of architecture students from underrepresented groups. We all have an important responsibility to work with others to play an import part in constructing a better more open profession and society . 

At the end of last month we joined together with other organisations in the built environment, including the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Building, and Disability Rights UK, to launch a campaign to make new homes as safe as possible - calling on the Government to require a second staircase in all new residential buildings over 18 metres. In a letter to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, we set out our position and urged the Minister to lower the proposed 30 metre threshold. Please help to amplify this important message by sharing our posts on social media and tagging the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities @luhc

The ARB are currently consulting on education reforms, and we strongly encourage you to submit your thoughts before it closes on 10 May - your views will be invaluable. We are concerned about ARB’s failure to recognise the value of the Part 1, 2 and 3 system, particularly the regard in which it is held internationally, and the lack of reference in the ARB’s proposals to vital technical areas of competence. We also think there must be more flexible, alternative study routes to widen access to the profession. To get a more detailed picture please read my article in Building Design and a blog by RIBA Director of Education and Learning Dr Jenny Russell and follow the link to the consultation

In other news, we published the Passivhaus Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work. Jointly developed by RIBA with the Passivhaus Trust. The Overlay helps clients and project teams make informed decisions to achieve Passivhaus certification in a streamlined way from the outset of projects. The Passivhaus design process is a tried and tested methodology of robustly delivering low in-use energy performance targets as advocated in the Sustainable Outcomes Guide, Plan for Use Guide and the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. Our new Passivhaus Overlay provides clearly laid out guidance on the key actions and processes at each RIBA Plan of Work Stage, illustrated with case study examples. In  our second Overlay to be published this year we have worked with the National Protective Security Agency to set out key guidance on security issues through the RIBA Stages, highlighting that managing security risk is not just for the largest projects but relevant to all. 

RIBA will soon launch a specialist register for Principal Designers. The competence criteria for the register will cover both the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) and the forthcoming Building Safety Principal Designer statutory duty holder roles. Read more about the role and the critical opportunity it opens for architects. 

I am pleased to sign off this note with optimism, noting February RIBA Future Trends report. For the first time in eight months, architects expect their workloads to increase, despite fears that the current EU trading arrangement is having a harmful effect. March’s RIBA Future Trends report continues the positive trajectory. 

Tomorrow, the UK-US mutual recognition agreement will come into force. We celebrated the launch at an event in Washington DC and are hosting a private event in conjunction with the Department for Business and Trade on the UK-US and UK, Australia and New Zealand trilateral agreement later this week. These new MRAs provide the opportunity to grow architectural exports and help talent architects from these countries work in the UK. To find out more, click here.

More from me next time.



Memo to Members – Monday 27 March 2023

Hi all,  

Following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, a number of members and practices have asked whether they can help in any way. I have contacted our chartered and student members based there to ask what support we can provide. In the first instance, we have created a page outlining our latest guidance. As with any first response to disasters, we recommend that you donate to UN Crisis Relief.

Earlier this month, I paid tribute to the impressive and generous architect Rafael Viñoly (1944-2023), recipient of a RIBA International Fellowship in 2006. At the Battersea Power Station design reviews, I remember him as thoughtful, engaged, and responsive, with an ever-watchful eye on the importance of the bigger idea.  My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones, and all those who have found inspiration in his work. We continue the tradition of holding a minute’s silence at our Council meetings as a sign of respect for RIBA members who have passed away. 

I was delighted to learn that our 2011 RIBA Royal Gold Medal and 2007 RIBA Stirling Prize winning architect Sir David Chipperfield was awarded the 2023 Pritzker Prize. David is a globally celebrated architect who has always recognised the vital role architecture has to play as background as well as in foreground. Whether in the field of art, commerce, education or housing, his work is always about a response to place, to the city and its citizens. 

I would also like to thank all of you whose work improves the built environment wherever you are located. I am keen to ensure smaller projects aren’t overlooked and will be working with our Awards team on this in the coming months. A special thank you to those of you who volunteer in our many committees, working groups, panels, juries, branches, and special interest groups - you play a valuable role in achieving our charitable purpose. 

It has been a busy few weeks. I have just returned from the real estate conference MIPIM 2023 alongside nineteen chartered practices, RIBA Chief Executive Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE, and Chair of the Board of Trustees Jack Pringle. Valerie was a keynote speaker, discussing the importance of collaboration for sustainability – her talk was featured in MIPIM magazine (combined print and online reach of over 23,000). Jack and I spoke on panels about retrofitting, 15-minute cities, and economic recovery in London. I met lots of practices, hearing about their challenges and successes, and it was a great chance to showcase the value of architecture. 

On 28 February, I responded to the government consultation on reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework, using feedback from members that we gathered at roundtable events. I was pleased to see a focus on levelling up the built environment, but to build the high-quality, sustainable homes and infrastructure we need - the Government must keep architecture at the heart of building design. We have also submitted our response to the consultation on fire safety measures including staircases in residential buildings, and we will be saying more about this.  

Last month, we published RIBA Future Trends January 2023

In other news, our expert advisory group on Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) has made its recommendations to Council, endorsing a programme of short, medium, and long term measures developed through engagement with the insurance industry which aim to improve the availability and affordability of PII for members. At the turn of the year members can expect benefits including a RIBA PII guidance document to aid completion of proposal forms and negotiating terms with brokers. There will be improved tools for aiding professional risk management and targeted CPD on risk management principles and practice. These recommended measures could be game changing for architects and the wider industry. We’re committed to helping create PII solutions that better serve all involved.  

We recently informed members of the rate increase to the UK Real Living Wage. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its importance. We have written to practices where it has become apparent that requirements may not be being met. If you have any concerns about your obligations, please contact

This Women’s History Month, I reflected on our progress in addressing the barriers to gender equality in our profession. Our work on education reform, campaigning for more alternative routes into the profession including earn and learn courses, aims to widen access to working in architecture and allow ever more underrepresented groups, to enter the profession.  

On 8 March, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an interview with our first female Chief Executive, Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE and a blog from RIBA Director of Education and Learning Dr Jenny Russell on women in architecture who inspire her. We also shared a look back at pioneering women as well as spotlighting rising stars of the future. 



Memo to Members – Monday 27 February 2023


I’m back from half term break with my family and pleased to share some recent RIBA highlights. 

It's been a busy few weeks in politics, with lots of change – including the appointment of the sixth Housing Minister in a year. I responded to Rishi Sunak’s mini-Cabinet reshuffle, outlining our concerns about the need for stability. We have been in touch with all the new ministers to offer our expertise and recommendations.

The ARB (UK) and NCARB (USA) Mutual Agreement for architects also reached a milestone, which we welcomed with an event at 66 Portland Place. It’s my belief that architects and architecture practices in both countries have much to gain from the agreement and mobility this will bring through the sharing of knowledge, skills and expertise. I hope that our members on both sides of the Atlantic take full advantage of these opportunities.

I recently highlighted the launch of the ARB’s major consultation on education reform, which we will be seeking extensive member input on. It’s imperative that new models of education facilitate a truly inclusive profession - we need to remove the barriers and we do not believe this goes far enough. We will be making a considered response and urging our individual members to share their views to ensure that our world-renowned education system benefits all.  

Earlier this month, the RIBA policy team held a series of roundtables with expert members to gather insight and inform our response to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities open consultation on reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The consultation is open until Thursday 2 March, and I would encourage members to submit a response. 

This month, we have started to reveal the projects which have been selected in the Regional Awards shortlists. It is always inspirational to see the range and breadth of the schemes that are in the running for awards – from BAFTA’s Headquarters to Newcastle Cathedral. Regional Award winners will be announced later this spring. In international news, I’m pleased our month-long Open Door 2022 finalists’ exhibition is well underway at URBANCROSS Gallery in Shanghai. Hosted by RIBA, British Council and the URBANCROSS Gallery, the exhibition showcases outstanding conservation projects from the UK and mainland China. 

This month, to mark LGBT+ History Month, the RIBA Library team and RIBA LGBTQ+ Community group have come together to highlight the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to architecture and the built environment. If you are in London, please visit the free exhibition currently open in the library at 66 Portland Place. For members outside London, I’d recommend our RIBA Collections LGBTQ+ spaces reading guide

RIBA continues to work on the development of the UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard with our industry partners. In March there will be three sessions at Futurebuild covering the overarching aims of the Standard, what it means for the future, and how the Standard fits with other initiatives. I’d encourage our members to attend. There are sessions each day between March 7-9. 

Also next month, I’ll be representing our members and promoting the work of our profession at the world’s leading real estate event, MIPIM 2023. I will be speaking on a panel about the importance of retrofitting. I will be joined at the conference by RIBA Chair of the Board of Trustees Jack Pringle, and RIBA Chief Executive Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE, who will deliver a keynote speech on the importance of collaboration and alignment on a safer, more equitable and sustainable built environment. Following an open call, we are taking nineteen Chartered Practices to the event. Meet the practices and see our full agenda.

Very best, 


Memo to Members – Monday 6 February 2023


Firstly, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to our 2022 Royal Gold Medallist, acclaimed Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, who sadly passed away on 24 January. I had the pleasure of meeting Doshi in his studio and home last year when I travelled to Ahmedabad to present him with his Medal. Doshi’s unparalleled contribution to the practice and discourse of architecture is a legacy that will long endure.   

On 31 January, we held our event Beauty: Who cares, wins! in conjunction with the Office for Place, discussing how the government and architects can collaborate to make healthy, sustainable communities, fit for the future. I was pleased to welcome the Housing Minister Lucy Frazer, government Chief Planner Joanna Averley, Head of Architecture at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Sarah Allan, Chair of the Office for Place Advisory Board Nicholas Boys Smith, and many other guests and members of our profession. It was wonderful to engage in a debate with 250 attendees about working together to create beautiful and enduring places, and the benefits (or not) of design codes - long may the lively conversation between architects and the government continue. I’d like to share the recording of the event with you all – look out for it on YouTube.   

On 18 January, we hosted vital discussions in the form of an Education and Practice Away Day. I was delighted to speak alongside Dr Jenny Russell, RIBA’s Director of Education and Learning, and Alex Tait, Director of Practice and Individual Knowledge. This is an important moment, as a number of educators from the ARB also presented. It was fantastic hearing from industry stalwarts, educators, and students, drawing together voices from across the profession to discuss what architectural practice and education need from each other. My personal takeaway from the event was that addressing inadequate government funding for university architecture programmes is imperative to produce the next generation of architects equipped to tackle 21st century challenges. I also believe we need many speedier and different (earn and learn) routes into the profession alongside the classic existing 3&2 route. We look forward to coordinating with the government to ensure this level of funding is achieved.

Last month, I responded to the latest Brownfield Land Release Fund announcement, which aims to bring neglected urban areas back into use, support regeneration projects, and boost local economies. We’ll continue to work closely with the government and the construction industry to ensure new buildings meet the highest design quality and environmental standards.

On 26 January, we published an initial guide exclusively for members to explain the impact of the Building Safety Act and other draft legislation in England. Developed with international law firm Simmons & Simmons LLP, the guide is an essential tool to ensure good practice within the new regulatory framework and contains practical tips for architects and practitioners. I strongly encourage you to take time to read it.

I was pleased that December’s Future Trends survey showed 2022 ending with an uptick as the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index indicated significant positive trajectory. On balance, members still anticipated falling workloads but were more positive than in previous months. All sizes of practices were more optimistic about workload, with those in London feeling particularly confident after a long period of pessimism, and the private housing sector rising. We share these findings with the government and the sector – it's certainly a vital temperature check of our country’s economic climate.

Supporting the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard (NZCBS) project remains a priority for us this year. RIBA is collaborating with cross-industry partners to define the characteristics required for a building to be ‘net zero’. The NZCBS will establish a standard based on robust science and sector-wide expertise and experience, aligning the views of all built environment stakeholders. This is not just another tick-box standard; by creating a common methodology to define ‘net zero’, we’re helping bring clarity to the sector and enabling industry to unequivocally demonstrate that their built assets follow national climate targets. Many RIBA members are involved in the project and practices have been encouraged to submit data as part of the evidence. The project aims to publish by the end of 2023, and more updates will follow.

Looking ahead, we’re hosting a great deal of online and live events and programmes this month, all of which are listed on our What’s On page. If you’re interested in any of the topics I've referred to in this memo, please do get in touch with your Regional Chair, elected Council Member, chair of a relevant Council Task & Finish Group or one of our many committees - we would love to hear from you.

Very best,


Memo to Members – Friday 20 January 2023

Welcome to my first memo of the year.  

I hope 2023 has got off to a good start for you. Here at RIBA, we have certainly begun the new term with renewed vigour and lots of ambitious plans to deliver! 

Before I review some key events, I need to take a moment to remind all RIBA members and Chartered Practices about the new government restrictions on trading with Russia. In September, the government announced sanctions targeting vulnerable sectors of the Russian economy, including the export ban of architectural services. This came into effect in December 2022 with significant implications. Please refer to our guidance note.

This week we hosted what I believe will prove to be an important event, an Education and Practice Away Day, building on and discussing our Education White Paper published earlier this month. The White Paper outlines the problems facing architecture students today and provides clear steps that should be taken to recruit and maintain a competent, skilled and diverse profession. We have pledged our support for radical changes to speed up entry to the workplace while reducing student debt - creating an education system that works for all. During our Away Day, we hosted a debate about these proposed changes, engaging both students and industry representatives. We’ll continue to work collaboratively to shape and reform architectural education ensuring a diverse architecture sector, that in turn, will lead to better buildings and places for everyone. We will provide more updates about the outcome of the day in my next Memo to Members. 

Last week, Chair of the Board, Jack Pringle and I met with Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP, Minister of State (Housing and Planning) at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We discussed the role that architects can play in delivering high-quality, sustainable developments, delivered through a well-resourced planning system. I look forward to further bolstering RIBA’s relationship with the DLUHC, and ensuring our members views are well represented at all important tables.  

In January, the independent review of net zero was published, and we urged the government to take on board the review’s recommendations and to be bolder in their ambitions to tackle climate change. We continue to offer the government our expertise. At our Council meeting in December, we heard from our Climate Emergency Task & Finish Group about their experience of attending COP27 and you can find out more here.  

In a similar vein, I have responded to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) Report. This focuses on accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and securing the UK’s energy supplies, with its recommendations helping the government achieve its net zero goal by 2050. The EAC’s call for a clearer fuel poverty target and the upgrading of homes’ energy efficiency should be a national priority - and is one we have long been calling for as a National Retrofit Strategy. To get to net zero, the government will need ambitious measures and we plan to engage with the government by sharing our members expertise as we push towards this goal. Read my full response here. 

At the end of this month, I’ll be speaking at “Beauty: Who Cares, Wins!”, at 66 Portland Place in London - a collaboration between the government’s Office for Place and RIBA. The event will discuss how the government and architects can collaborate to make healthy, sustainable communities, fit for the future. You can register for the event here. 

Looking forward to next month, we will be marking LGBTQ+ history month on our social media channels and in our library, by highlighting the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community within architecture and the built environment. Do follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates. 

Very best, 


Memo to Members – Thursday 15 December 2022

I hope you are all well and looking forward to the festive period. Since my last memo, which provided updates on the 2022-23 Biennial Action Plan, we’ve been busy with the final awards of the year, including our highly anticipated RIBA House of the Year Award.

Just last week, a family house in rural Dorset was announced as the winner in the final episode of our four-part TV series on Channel 4. During the series millions of views have tuned to learn more about the projects in the running for our coveted award, for the UK’s best new home. The programmes heard from happy clients and met the architects responsible for these impressive projects. The Red House by David Kohn Architects took the big prize, having greatly impressed the jury with its playful eccentricity and stunning craftsmanship. Many congratulations to everyone who took part this year, and particularly to those responsible for the creation of the shortlisted and longlisted houses. Early in the new year, you can join a special event at 66 Portland Place to hear more about the story behind The Red House. Tickets available here.

As some of you may have seen, last week was the President’s Medals ceremony, which honours student projects. The Awards are open to schools from around the world and this year, 100 schools submitted. These awards, now in their 186th year, have an incredible heritage and we have an extraordinary digital archive that tells the story of the preoccupations of students through time. I was delighted to present the Silver and Dissertation Medal to Annabelle Tan at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL and the Bronze Medal to Mary Holmes from the University of Cambridge. Along with the President’s Medals, Professor Kester Rattenbury was awarded the biennial Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Architectural Education. Congratulations to the winners and the tutors and schools who have encouraged such promising talent.

(L) Silver and Dissertation Medal project - Annabelle Tan at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. (R) Bronze Medal project - Mary Holmes from the University of Cambridge

In other news, earlier this month, the  2022 RIBA Charles Jencks Award was awarded to Forensic Architecture. This annual prize is given to an individual or practice who has made a major contribution to both the theory and practice of architecture. Led by Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, founded in 2010. Forensic architecture is the process and presentation of architectural evidence in relation to the built environment within legal and political processes. The agency partners with institutions to investigate human rights violations on behalf of communities and individuals. Forensic Architecture will be presented with the award and give a lecture at the RIBA in London on 22 February 2023. The event will include an interview by Thomas Aquilina from the New Architecture Writers programme. Tickets can be reserved here. 

As I’m sure you know, training to be an architect in the UK is a long and expensive endeavour. It currently takes on average over ten years to gain access to the register, with individual student debt soaring. Last week, we restated our vision for a more accessible and inclusive system of architecture education and highlighted our key areas of concern and recommendations to the ARB. You can view the full statement here. In the new year we will be publishing a White Paper on architecture education and will also be holding a major cross-sector conference, focussing on the interface between practice and education on 18 January 2023. If you'd like to attend the conference, please register your interest at     

As the year draws to a close, I would like to applaud the progress we have collectively accomplished as an institute: many thanks to all the volunteers, from local group, branch and chapter members to nationally and internationally-elected representatives, the RIBA thrives because of its committed network of members pulling together.  Thank you all for the important part you play. 

I hope all of you enjoy some well-deserved time off and I wish all of you a wonderful festive period and a prosperous New Year. 

More from me in 2023. 

Very best, 


Simon Allford’s Biennial Action Plan Update – from the desk of the RIBA President  - Wednesday 30 November

Dear Members,  

I’m Simon Allford, RIBA President.   

I’ve had the pleasure and responsibility of this role for just over a year and have the best part of another one to go, before I hand on the baton to Muyiwa Oki.   

It feels like a good time to reflect on the progress that has been made, and what is yet to come.   

Hopefully, you will have seen a recent update from the Chair of the RIBA Board, Jack Pringle. The RIBA Board - in case you are unclear - is a collective of 12 trustees. They are a mix of expert members, including architects and representatives from the RIBA Council, and external specialists from the fields of finance, HR, culture, technology and IT.  Our Trustees are directly appointed by the RIBA Council – your elected representatives – and are responsible for the management of RIBA’s business.   

Around this time last year, I set out my presidential priorities in a ten-point plan. We have refined this and published a ten-point Biennial Action Plan 2022-23 endorsed by RIBA Council and Board. This key document sets out the focus for the organisation during my presidency. These areas include giving proper emphasis and resources to the issues that matter most to our members: Access to Architecture, addressing PII and carbon, increasing membership engagement, and making sure our institute is in the right shape to deliver what our members and society need now, and in the future.   


Firstly, I’d like to focus on the biggest issue of our time: the climate emergency.  I write this message following the conclusion of COP27, the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt. It is with regret that I was not able to attend this year’s event due to a family bereavement. However, RIBA representatives have used this influential platform to discuss the vital role architects play in addressing the climate emergency, emphasizing the importance of low energy buildings and the significance of retrofitting existing stock. More specifically, the co-chair of RIBA’s Climate Task & Finish Group, Duncan Baker-Brown engaged in panel discussions on mobilising ambition loops (positive feedback loops in which private sector leadership and government policies positively reinforce each other) to decarbonise the built environment while RIBA sustainability expert member, Smith Mordak, discussed implementable solutions to reducing whole life carbon emissions. You can read more about our work at this significant event on our website here. In addition to our constructive lobbying and liaising at COP27, we are working hard to reduce our own carbon footprint, for example by bringing staff, members and the public together at our headquarters and consequently reducing our property footprint.  

I look forward to incorporating the discussions and key takeaways from COP27 in forthcoming RIBA initiatives and activities. This month, we opened our latest exhibition in the Architecture Gallery at 66 Portland Place; Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a circular economy. The exhibition shows how the principles of the circular economy can help create more sustainable, net zero architecture for the future.   

Net Zero Carbon Building Standard  

On this theme, the RIBA is working with leading industry bodies to develop a UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard that will enable industry to robustly prove their built assets are net zero carbon and in line with our nation’s climate targets. The Standard, to be launched in 2023, will set out the metrics by which net zero carbon performance is evaluated, as well as performance targets, and limits, that need to be met for energy use, upfront embodied carbon, and lifecycle embodied carbon. It will also cover the approach to carbon accounting, procuring renewable energy, and the treatment of residual emissions, including carbon ‘offsetting’. Supporting this standard measurement process, we need up-to-date accessible data and so we are also working on the development of a single, free to use Built Environment Carbon Database with many of the same institutions. The consortia are now calling on UK built environment industry practitioners to share embodied carbon and in-use operational energy performance data for their buildings.   

Awards Programme 

We recently launched the new Reinvention Award to celebrate the reuse of new buildings. As architects, we have a responsibility to mitigate the impact of our work on the planet, so I am delighted to initiate an award which champions the creative transformation of an existing building and thus makes a vital contribution to environmental, social and economic sustainability. The recipient of the inaugural award will be announced in October 2023 alongside the Stirling Prize winner. Further updates to the awards programme include revised criteria for the Stephen Lawrence Prize: from 2023, the award will celebrate new talent by exclusively recognising projects led by an early career architect, typically someone who has qualified within five years prior to the project’s completion date. Previously, the prize was awarded to the best projects with a construction budget of less than £1 million. This new approach further supports our commitment to creating opportunities for the next generation and to drive inclusion and diversity.  

Professional Indemnity Insurance 

Elsewhere, we have set up a RIBA Council-led expert advisory group (EAG) to address PII (Professional Indemnity Insurance). Working with insurance industry experts, the RIBA is committed to taking a lead on this issue within the construction industry for the benefit of our members and the wider architectural profession, but it’s equally important to the public interest. This work is in progress and strongly evidence based. We’ve analysed the findings of the members’ survey we ran in the summer, along with data from the RIBA Business Benchmarking report to give us a detailed, robust picture of the current market, covering levels of premiums, excess and policy exclusions. We’re using this data in our discussions with the insurance market. We are focused on short and medium-term improvements and longer-term resilience and protection for architects.  We expect to see recommendations emerging from this work in early 2023 and implementation to follow in the remainder of the year.   

We are working hard to make sure we listen and represent the views and concerns of our members on all the top tables.  I know our members highly value the influencing work we do on your behalf. We are consistently and frequently engaging with the government to provide evidence and intelligence through these turbulent times. We have also started engaging with Architects – including many RIBA members - working within government to work out how we can help their initiatives by harnessing the talents of our members.  Please do note, your weekly Member Update brings you the latest news about our meetings and successes (as well as the challenges!) in championing your interests.   

Recently, I’ve welcomed the Chancellor’s statement that we must improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. However, for the people and economy to adequately benefit from the relief, it needs to be accelerated to meet the scale of the challenge. In the months prior, I’ve called upon the government to ensure we have the housing we need; create a well-resourced and efficient planning system; implement a National Retrofit Strategy and embed a clear and effective building safety regime. We will continue to work with the government to further support best practice.    


I’m pleased to say we are making great headway in recalibrating the organisation’s finances to get it into the best shape, reduce our operating costs and allocate resources to areas of the business that need it most. Jack Pringle’s Board Bulletin went into more on this, but in summary: the 2020 sale of our commercial arm, NBS, generated significant capital, much of which has been invested in a protected endowment scheme. We have an outstanding team focussing on maximising our investment fund, of over £100m. 

The House of Architecture 

Next, I must highlight our progress on the House of Architecture initiative to undertake some vital improvements to 66 Portland Place. We’ve appointed Benedetti Architects to lead a thorough feasibility study, slated to be complete by the end of January. Portland Place is a stunning building. However, it doesn’t currently meet our aspirations in terms of carbon, accessibility, or inclusion, so a programme of work is vital and long overdue. The House of Architecture project goes beyond the physical building. The RIBA team is working on growing a globalized and digitally accessible programme of events and exhibits, open to members and the public, wherever they are in the world. This includes a plan to bring together our vast world class collection of architectural artifacts, currently in five disparate locations across the UK, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Our intention is that this will result in ever-more changing displays of our world class collections at 66 Portland Place. Our recently appointed Executive Director of Architecture Programmes and Collections Oliver Urquhart Irvine is playing a key role in opening up the institute by creating a new programme of events. Last week, we celebrated the success of the inaugural initiative HomeGrownPlus that we supported by sending architecture students from under-represented backgrounds to New York to learn from the city’s leading practices.  

Other new projects include work to improve member’s access to best practice tools. We plan to publish a new hub page of materials in sections: Running your Business, Promoting your Practice and Managing your Projects. Over time we will grow these resources and fill in the gaps. 

Channel4 broadcasts House of the Year 

As well as the work we do to improve conditions for architects and influence government, I am regularly told the other thing members value is our profile: promoting the work of an architect. One powerful way we achieve this on your behalf is through our media partnerships with major broadcasters. The latest is a four-part TV series on Channel 4 that started earlier in the month. Kevin McCloud and a team of presenters including one of our chartered members – Damion Burrows – are exploring the 20 buildings on the longlist for the 2022 RIBA House of the Year. Every Wednesday at 9pm viewers can enjoy an hour of RIBA members on screen with the final on 7 December. The series will reach audiences in the millions, educating the public and potential clients about what sets an RIBA Chartered Architect apart from the rest. Congratulations to all those featured. And if you want to get yourself on screen next year, please do enter your projects in the awards. Of course, our awards aren’t all for houses or for grand designs. Whatever your budget or location, your projects can be entered. This is the best way to bring your work and practice to the attention of your region and the masses.   

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge that amidst the accomplishments and successes over the past year, there is always more to be done. I’m evermore emboldened by the passion and dedication of our Council, Board, staff, and you our members working collaboratively and cohesively to help make this past year successful.

Very best, 


Memo to Members – Tuesday 1 November

Morning all.

I hope you had a good weekend, and that some of you were able to take a break over half-term. I was pleased to take some time off with my family. As ever the news agenda and RIBA activity have continued! 

So, first-up the appointment of our new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. Reacting to the news, I have called on our new PM, to bring reassurance and stability during these tumultuous times. Facing soaring inflation and energy prices alongside housing and climate crises – it will be no mean feat. But, I have urged the government to remember that buildings are long term assets - critical to our quality of life and wellbeing. And that as architects we stand ready - alongside the wider built environment sector - to work with the government to create a better future for all. Read my full response here

We have also responded to the government’s net zero review. Our response highlighted our key sustainability policy positions and called on the government to set operational energy and embodied carbon targets for new buildings, undertake Post Occupancy Evaluations, and tackle energy demand by introducing a National Retrofit Strategy. Read our full response.    

Earlier this month we published the findings from our latest Future Trends report. Surveying a cross section of members on workloads and staffing levels, the index recorded its lowest score (-17), outside of lockdowns, since the great recession of 2009. Looking at the figures our Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, noted the impact of global issues including the war in Ukraine on the fall in architects’ confidence. Read the full report alongside further expert analysis and guidance from Adrian. 

Looking ahead, at the beginning of November we’ll be opening our latest exhibition Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a Circular Economy at 66 Portland Place. The exhibition tackles material waste and regenerative construction and will draw on our collections to reveal the nature and recent history of demolition. My hope with this show is to interrogate circular economy principles and conversations around material-use to take us closer to our goal of net zero.   

On this note, I am pleased to also update that alongside other RIBA representatives, I will be heading to Egypt for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a couple of weeks. I look forward to taking part in fruitful discussions about how we, alongside our global built environment counterparts, can do more to tackle the climate emergency. Updates on our activities will follow.   

More from me on 14 November. 



Memo to Members – Wednesday 19 October

Afternoon all.

Last Thursday marked one of the most anticipated dates in the architectural calendar as we held the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize Party at 66 Portland Place. It was a spectacular evening filled with great company, entertainment, and exciting announcements – which we broadcast via a livestream on our website for the very first time. At the ceremony we looked to the past, paying tribute to RIBA Past President – Marco Goldshmied – recognising his profound contribution to the sector and the RIBA Awards programme. And we also looked to the future - I was delighted to announce the winner of the 26th RIBA Stirling Prize - The New Library, Magdalene College in Cambridge by Níall McLaughlin Architects. Creating a new building that will stand the test of time is a significant challenge, but one that Níall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility - my congratulations once again to Níall and his team.

On Thursday evening, we also celebrated the winners of our Special Awards. This year's Stephen Lawrence Prize went to The Hackney School of Food by Surman Weston; Neave Brown Award for Housing to Hackney New Primary School and 333 Kingsland Road by Henley Halebrown and Client of the Year to Thornsett Group and the Benyon Estate for the jointly commissioned Hackney New Primary School and 333 Kingsland Road. With all three awards going to projects in the east London borough of Hackney - clients and the council here have clearly prioritised transformation, regeneration, and good community architecture. Well done to all involved.

Of course, we also held our annual People’s Vote – inviting the public to pick their favourite building on the shortlist. The winner of the People’s Vote this year was Hackney New Primary School and 333 Kingsland Road by Henley Halebrown - congratulations! I’d like to extend my utmost gratitude and thanks to the nominees, jury, and everyone involved in making this year’s awards celebration so memorable.

Now – for a quick note on some of our policy work. Last week we responded to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities consultation on implementing the new building control regime for higher-risk buildings and wider changes to the building regulations for all buildings. Our response aims to bolster the policy aims of the government and ensure the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt effect real change within the construction industry, both at a regulatory and behavioural level. Read our full response here. We have also been closely following the government’s fiscal announcements – responding both to the announcement that the rise to corporation tax will go ahead and also to the Chancellor’s commitment to incentivise energy efficiency improvements. We will continue to monitor the government’s economic plans and assess their impact on the sector.

As you will be aware, ARB has been given new powers to monitor the training and development architects carry out throughout their careers. ARB are currently consulting on the scheme before it is finalised and introduced. Draft guidance has been published, so that architects can review the requirements and understand what will be asked of them. We urge you to respond to the consultation and if you have any questions, you can join a live Q&A session at midday on Wednesday 26 October. Please register here if interested.

Once again, many congratulations to Stirling winners and everyone for a wonderful, celebratory evening.

More from me on 31 October.



Memo to Members – Wednesday 5 October

Morning all.

I want to begin this week’s column by welcoming Black History Month – a time for us at RIBA to consider and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black professionals in the built environment. This October, we will be sharing previously untold stories from our collections, as well as looking to the future, with a note from RIBA’s President Elect, Muyiwa Oki.

I have been reacting and responding to quite a few things over the past two weeks – the Architects’ Journal’s student survey, the ARB’s latest consultation on CPD, Kwasi Kwarteng’s first mini budget (or otherwise known as the ‘Growth Plan 2022’) and the government’s introduction of sanctions on architectural services in Russia.

The AJ’s student survey findings made for uncomfortable reading and reconfirmed the reality of the pressure and stresses that architectural students face. They paint a picture of financial hardship, with many students undertaking part time work to support rising living and studying costs and still accruing significant debts. Findings that indicate students from underrepresented groups seem to be working longer hours each week remains a big concern – and supports what we already know about barriers to entry and attrition rates.

Strong interest in apprenticeships highlights the urgency of developing alternative routes into the profession. More affordable, flexible routes to becoming an architect will help ensure that students with the aspiration to join the profession can make positive choices and feel both encouraged and able to qualify. Indeed, on-the-job training could also help to address the education-to-practice knowledge gap, meaning that 'earn and learn' becomes both a financially and educationally attractive and successful pathway. We know we have to improve access to the profession, which is why we will continue working with the ARB to lobby for new, alternative models of education that break down barriers to entry.

Last week, the ARB also launched a consultation on its draft scheme for enhancing CPD. Our fundamental concern is that any proposals bolster rather than duplicate RIBA’s existing, established programme and uphold competency standards. We will be responding, and urge you to do the same. It’s really important that reforms reflect and cater to the practical needs of the profession whilst instilling confidence in the wider sector and public.

In addition to responding to the new government’s mini budget (which disappointingly lacked any provision for long term energy efficiency improvements), we welcomed a significant rise to the Real Living Wage, which will apply to all Chartered Practice employees.

We’ve also been attending Party Conferences. In Liverpool, we hosted an event with CIOB, RICS, and RTPI featuring Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and Salford City Council’s Mayor, Paul Dennett. The discussion focused on what sustainable development looks like. The team are also currently returning from Birmingham’s Conservative Party Conference where we took part in a panel discussion on the correlation between ‘levelling up’ and ‘building better’ with representatives from the CIOB, RICS, RTPI, and RIBA’s Jack Pringle.

Finally, I want to end this week’s note by paying tribute to Sam Webb. For over 50 years, Sam dedicated his working life to improving the safety of our built environment. His investigation into the structural collapse of Ronan Point in 1968 started a career campaigning for regulatory change. As one of the country’s most knowledgeable specialists in this field, he shared his expertise generously with others, from construction professionals to government panels and members of the public too. His lifelong dedication to building safety has, and will continue to, save lives. Having had the pleasure of knowing him for many years and working with him on Council, I share my deepest condolences with his family, friends, and all who knew him.

More from me (post-Stirling) on 17 October.



Memo to Members – Tuesday 20 September

Afternoon all.

I write this column having represented RIBA at the funeral of our Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. It felt like a large family funeral; an extraordinarily well choreographed historical event played out in front of the world. London provided a magnificent backdrop of buildings and people – a valuable record of 21st Century life. As our Patron, Her Majesty offered unwavering support during her seven decades on the throne, and her steady influence and calm assured presence has been a vital constant for our profession. You can read my full tribute here.

In the same moment we witnessed her passing, we also welcomed a new King – Charles III – a Royal who has perhaps demonstrated the most interest in our built environment. Not without controversy. But that debate is something to welcome. Throughout his life and work, most notably with the Prince’s Foundation, Charles has been a strong advocate for environmental conservation, and long-championed architecture that puts community and sustainability at its heart. We wish His Majesty a long, successful and happy reign, and look forward to engaging wherever possible to realise our shared goal: to build a well-designed low carbon future.

As you may have noticed, we made the decision to pause external communications during the period of National Mourning, but last week we felt it crucial to mark what would have been Stephen Lawrence’s 48th birthday. Nearly thirty years on from the day that Stephen tragically murdered, many forms of discrimination continue to create barriers that prevent talented individuals from building careers in architecture. We all have a responsibility to break them down and become better allies. You can read more about that here.

Moving on to our awards now. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the six projects shortlisted for this year’s Stirling Prize. It was a busy week as Kirsten Lees, Chris Ofili Smith, Glenn Howells, Smith Mordak (sustainability advisor) and myself as Chair, supported by the hardworking RIBA Awards team, travelled to Scotland, Cambridge and around our Capital. We were all struck by the commitment of clients, architects and design teams to firstly design and construct these buildings and, ever more importantly, to bring them to life in use: life starts when architecture finishes. Or perhaps I should write architecture comes to life in use. The winner will be announced very soon on 13 October. You can find out more about the schedule for the evening and book your place here.

Finally, following a detailed review, today we announced a 7.5% fee rise for Members for 2023. As we all know, in both personal and professional circumstances, the prices we’re paying for services and material goods are rising rapidly. As a membership body and business with an annual operational deficit to eradicate, RIBA is no exception. This decision follows much discussion and negotiation, and keeps fees as low as possible, while ensuring RIBA can continue to deliver the services and support that you need. Free membership for students, and reductions for those facing financial hardship, on lower incomes and retired architects will continue – and all Members will receive an email over the coming weeks with detailed breakdown of your specific 2023 fee. You can find out more about the changes here.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. I want to ensure this weekly note is useful, relevant and focusses on the issues that matter to you. More from me on 3 October.



Memo to Members – Monday 5 September

Morning all.

Welcome to September and the start of our 2022-23 session.

At RIBA we’re ready to hit the ground running, with a busy few months of activities and events lined up. But before I get into that, I’m sure you will all join me in congratulating Muyiwa Oki who was elected back in August as the next RIBA President. Muyiwa led a commendable campaign with an electoral manifesto focused on the future of the profession – I’m delighted for his win and look forward to working together closely until I hand over next year. Find out more about all of our new Council Member representatives and recently recruited Board Committee Members.

Now – let’s turn to the autumn programme of cultural events. Our VitrA talk series continues on 8 and 26 September with talks on urban regeneration and rethinking hospital design; on 10 September we’ll be opening up 66 Portland Place as part of Open House 2022; and on 12 September we’ll be hosting the inaugural RIBA + Grimshaw Foundation Annual Art Lecture, delivered by Sir Antony Gormley. We’re also hosting two Stirling Stories events exploring this year’s shortlist in London and Leeds. Please keep an eye on our What’s On page and join where you can.

We’re also getting closer and closer to the actual 2022 Stirling Prize, with our party taking place on 13 October at 66 Portland Place. It’s set to be a spectacular evening of live performances and celebration and, with several different ticketing options, there’s something for everyone. Find out more and book your place.

Now onto our policy work. Later this month we’ll be attending both the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences. Hosting panel discussions alongside other built environment partners, we'll be discussing why and how government and local leaders can utilise industry expertise to enable and empower growth and development in communities. We’ll be sharing details about how you can get involved soon.

Today we’re also of course welcoming a new Prime Minister to 10 Downing Street. As people grapple with surging energy prices prompting major fears about heating homes this winter, Liz Truss has a colossal task on her hands. We’ll be engaging immediately. Read my reaction.

We’ve been engaging with government at all levels and recently hosted a meeting with architects – many of whom are RIBA Members – who are working within government departments. As part of our work to support their initiatives and research, we’re currently seeking your best practice examples of inclusive design – visual, photographic, and diagrammatic examples that can be used as illustrative cameos. Do you have something we can pass on? Please email

Finally, a few deadline reminders. Our survey on PII market conditions will close on Wednesday 7 September. Your insights are critical to the success of our cross-industry project to enhance the availability and breadth of cover and to make premiums appropriate and affordable. You also still have a few days to send your 2023 Royal Gold Medal nominations. Who deserves to be recognised for this lifetime achievement? You have until Friday 9 September to submit.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with my next update on 19 September. In the meantime, as ever, please leave me feedback and questions. I want to ensure this weekly note is useful and relevant – and focusses on the issues that matter to you.



Memo to Members – Monday 18 July

Afternoon all.

I want to begin this week’s Memo by paying tribute to a good friend and former President, Marco Goldschmied, who sadly passed away on 7 July. I recently re-read Marco’s RIBA election priorities of almost 25 years ago: a promise to shake-up architecture, raise professional standards and the profile of the profession, as well as a campaign for a radical revision of the planning process. He achieved a considerable amount, much of which remains valid today. I last saw him at his home where we spoke of the challenges ahead. In particular of PII (on which he did much of the recent groundwork to shape our own project) and of his ideas to support the next generation and construct new ways into architecture. Marco was always generous with his time. My thoughts are with all those who knew him.

Marco really cared about supporting architects and the profession, and the role of RIBA. It therefore seemed somewhat fitting that on the 8 July I joined the long-awaited Members Forum at 66 Portland Place – a timely opportunity to speak to representatives from across our global membership. It gave me an opportunity to explain some of RIBA’s recent business decisions – as part of the transformation programme – from properties to staff structures.

One topic of conversation was the essential refurbishment of our leaky and inaccessible long-term home, 66 Portland Place – our physical House of Architecture. Right now, the building’s expensive and inefficient to run, it doesn’t meet accessibility standards or our EDI values and it doesn’t provide the digital capability we need to ensure we can fully connect with our global membership. We need to get it into much better shape so that it performs well for our members, staff, volunteers and clients. I will keep you updated on progress – a feasibility study (to see what’s possible) should be complete by the end of the year.

Talking of the House of Architecture programme, last week RIBA appointed Oliver Urquhart Irvine as Executive Director, Architecture Programmes and Collections – completing the RIBA’s new Executive team. In addition to RIBA Awards, Oliver will be the House of Architecture programme lead, curating the events, exhibitions, and partnerships planned for 2022 and beyond. Oliver will also be helping to progress plans to unify our currently dispersed world-class Collections, which are currently stored within five different locations across the UK. This will involve scoping a new facility to fulfil future storage requirements, allow us to attract and accept new offers, and enable the Collections to be used and appreciated more easily by wider audiences – both physically and online. Watch this space.

Speaking of RIBA Awards, following last week’s House of the Year announcement, on Thursday we will learn of the six buildings shortlisted for the 2022 Stirling Prize, alongside the shortlists for the Stephen Lawrence Prize and Neave Brown Award for Housing. It’s one of the most exciting dates in the architecture calendar – I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s on the list.

A few reminders to end on. Firstly – please remember to vote in this year’s elections by 26 July. As I’ve said before, choosing your representatives is the most important way in which you can shape RIBA. You should have all received a unique link to vote via the CES platform to have your say, please contact with any issues. The results will be announced on 2 August. Secondly – I urge you all to respond to our survey on PII market conditions. Your insights are critical to the success of our cross-industry project, which aims to promote improved levels of professional and regulatory confidence in a manner that is attractive to the PII market, enhance the availability and breadth of cover, and realign premiums at an appropriate and affordable level for members and their practices. It’s a top priority.

This will be my final Memo ahead of the summer break. As we rush to tie up business and (hopefully) take some time away, I want to wish you all well and thank you for your continued support. I look forward to resuming these updates as we begin the new session in September with new representatives on board. Exciting times ahead.

Best wishes,


Memo to Members – Monday 4 July

Morning all.

I’ve decided to make these notes fortnightly before the summer break – so here’s an update on activity since we last spoke on 20 June.

From 21 to 24 June, Azlina Bulmer (Director of International) and I attended the AIA annual Conference on Architecture in Chicago. The three day event provided an opportunity to meet all the presidents of the world’s professional architectural institutions and associations. I spoke of our plans for the House of Architecture – as a host to debate: an Institute of Ideas. Which was well received. We also agreed to work with the UIA to develop a shared action plan to address the vital topic of climate change. I look forward to continuing conversations and developing actions. It was also a useful reminder of our institute’s significant potential to hear how other organisations and individuals around the world hold the RIBA in such high esteem – as a force for good and a driver of change. A key highlight for me was a conversation with Barack Obama (though somewhat distant as it was conducted by the AIA President in front of an audience of 5,000). Chicago is a favourite city that I have visited many times, so I punctuated events with long runs alongside Lake Michigan, with detours to Mies’ Lake Shore Drive and other icons of mid-century modernism.

Council met last Tuesday and discussed a packed agenda, from RIBA’s new Education Code of Conduct for validated schools to future membership fees. My report focussed on the new Biennial Action Plan, which outlines ten clear priorities (underpinned with 52 actions) for the two years. From balancing the budget to cutting carbon, to seeking solutions to the PII crisis, the priorities will enable RIBA to focus its outputs and deliver on the ultimate objective of the 2034 Masterplan: to educate and support architects, to promote architecture and to celebrate excellence. It’s in its final stages of development and will be published soon. I’ll be writing about it for my next RIBAJ column at the end of the month. It was a critical and productive meeting where we had time to discuss the significant work of Council’s Task and Finish Groups, which are taking on both the obvious and less obvious but equally critical issues of the day. I look forward to welcoming both new and returning faces to Council post-election – as part of the vital democratic churn that ensures our relevance. I also hope for more of the above essential action and ever less time spent on what Past President Alex Gordon referred to as the ‘irrelevance of the RIBA’s petty internal squabble’. 

 On the topic of  PII andCouncil-led initiatives, plans to embark on a Professional Risk and PII Market Review, supported by insurance industry experts, were announced last week. This will be led by Jennifer Dixon, as PII Task & Finish Group Chair. The full study will examine a range of measures to improve access to cover, from standardisation of PII proposal forms and policy wording, to enhanced professional risk management techniques. While the ARB has proposed some welcome adjustments to support the profession in the short term (read our response to their consultation) we urgently require solutions to better manage professional design liability and make cover easier to obtain. A survey of members’ experiences marks the first step – and I urge you all to take part before 24 July.  

 Following Council, later that evening, I popped upstairs to chair the Building Stories talk on the sixth floor. Here a packed room listened to the tales of Clerkenwell Close – a story of collaboration between architect and client (interestingly Amin Taha was both) as well as engineer, stone mason, and resident. The evening was full of insights into architecture, carbon, construction, and urban design – as well as the joys and occasional inconveniences of living there.

On Wednesday evening, I was back at 66 Portland Place introducing Nigel Coates to a packed Jarvis Hall audience wanting to hear about his book. Lives in Architecture: Nigel Coates – published by RIBA – is a wonderfully generous journey: a tale of his life, of friendships, of relationships, of collaborations in life, in art, in education, and in practice. NATO (Narrative Architecture Today) was an important critical force – and Nigel clarified that his interest has always been about encouraging members of all sorts of communities to take over the buildings and spaces that he has helped launch. His is a journey that crisscrosses from Malvern to Nottingham, London, Florence, Tokyo, and beyond. A story of drawing, fashion, nightclubs, music, food, study, and reflection as well as the making of architecture at all scales (to Nigel furniture and product design are just small architecture). Unusually it is also very a good read. As I noted, Nigel is every inch an ‘architect’ though he has not yet got his Part 3. It’s something RIBA needs to work on – reconnecting with those who have not ticked all the boxes – the architectural diaspora! Importantly as with ever more events both of these were filmed and will be available first to members and then the wider public online – at the digital House of Architecture. 

As London’s streets were filled with LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations on Saturday (where members walked alongside Architecture LGBT+ and LFA representatives) another RIBA publication, Queer Spaces – edited by Adam Nathaniel-Furman and Joshua Mardell – was also appropriately launched last week. I have yet to read it but I have scanned the reviews and will add it to my summer reading list.

Finally last week, on Thursday I had the pleasure of joining a panel chaired by Lord Foster to select the recipient of this year’s travelling scholarship, which will be announced soon. We were all struck by the depth, breadth, and quality of the 40+ submissions. Travel is a great educator. And the prize itself is a great example of the RIBA acting as host, collector, and connector. Harnessing the energy, talent, and goodwill of our members. 

Looking ahead to this week, we’ll be hosting the annual Members Forum at 66 Portland Place on Friday. I’m really looking forward to hearing from our regional representatives, discussing planning and carbon, and finding out more about branch achievements and celebrations. I’ll update in my next memo. The 20 homes vying to be crowned RIBA House of the Year 2022 will also be announced on Sunday ahead of the four-part Channel 4 series later this year. 

Lastly, I urge you all to cast your vote. Voting opened for the 2022 Presidential and Council elections on Tuesday 28 June and will close at 5pm on 26 July. This is one of the most important ways you can shape RIBA – please make sure you have your say. We have six contested Council seats this year – two National, two Regional (East), and two Student. Here’s the link to the Civica voting platform.  

More from me on 18 July.  

Best wishes,  


Memo to Members – Monday 20 June


I hope you had a good weekend.   

First up this week – elections. This year’s process for electing your new representatives is now well underway. Candidates for all positions were announced earlier today, and the first hustings event will take place tomorrow. I urge you all to engage. Find out more about the candidates, register for hustings (24 hours before) and, most importantly, make sure you vote on 28 June.   

Now, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the celebration held last week for our 2022 Royal Gold Medallist, acclaimed Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi. Following my two day whirlwind trip to India in May to present the medal to Mr Doshi in person, last week we celebrated his achievements with a virtual event linking us here at 66 Portland Place, London with Doshi’s studio in Ahmedabad, India, and a global online audience of 400 viewers. The event featured tributes from architects around the world, including Frank Gehry, Álvaro Siza, and Benedetta Tagliabue; a discussion about his extraordinary life and philosophy, and an audience Q&A. It was really special – watch the recording of the Royal Gold Medal ceremony.

Looking ahead to this week. On Thursday we’ll be announcing the 2022 RIBA National Award winners – an outstanding cohort of buildings that push boundaries and set new benchmarks for architecture worldwide. I hope practices find time to celebrate their achievements, I send massive congratulations to you all.    

A brief section on RIBA business. Board met last week to talk planning and strategy, and Council will be meeting on 28 June. I look forward to sharing the developed iteration of RIBA's Biennial Plan – a clear set of priorities and activities that will enable us to deliver on the overarching vision: to educate and support architects, to promote architecture, and to celebrate excellence. I anticipate this will be within the next few weeks. I also wanted to direct you to a new, dynamic page outlining key elements of the transformation programme. I am often asked what RIBA means by ‘transformation’ and why decisions are being made – this should help to answer some of those questions.   

Finally, a reminder to explore the RIBA Business and career resilience hub. Requested by members, this new digital hub details relevant resources around business resilience that can be applied in your practice and in your career. New content, events, and resources will be added when commissioned.  

That’s all for now. As we enter the summer months and summer holidays begin, we’ll be making these updates fortnightly. I look forward to catching up with you next on the 4 July.  

As ever, please leave me feedback and questions. I want to ensure this weekly note is useful and relevant – and focusses on the issues that matter to you.  

Best wishes,   


Memo to Members – Monday 13 June

Hello all.   

I wanted to start this week’s memo by reflecting on tomorrow’s anniversary: it’s been five years since we witnessed the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower where 72 people tragically lost their lives. It was a day that none of us will forget and one that has prompted long-overdue changes to our building safety regime and the way we practice as architects – for the better. What’s the fundamental lesson I take from Grenfell? We all have a responsibility to better understand the construction of our designs, and the process of realising our ideas. I’m well aware that huge expectations are being placed on construction, and architects specifically, meaning support will be critical. Over the coming months, RIBA will be providing appropriate guidance and helping ensure architects have the skills required to fulfil the Principal Designer role.   

Like many of you, I have read UCL's report on the Bartlett. The report has been widely commented on, both by the school and the wider architectural community. Every educator and education provider has a duty to support the wellbeing and safety of their students, as well as their academic development, and have effective mechanisms in place to eradicate unacceptable behaviour. Like other creative disciplines, architecture education relies upon critical appraisal of students’ work, but this needs to be properly managed. We've all got to pull together to bring about a culture change. You can read my response, which also notes RIBA's current work to explore a new Education Code of Conduct for validated institutions, similar to the RIBA Code of Practice for Chartered Practices. 

This week we’re also hosting a roundtable with our Corporate Members – an opportunity to engage with individual practitioners and find out what matters to them, right now. It’s all part of RIBA’s aim to refine its membership offer, to ensure it provides (at every level) the guidance and tools practices need – think “practice in a box”. Today we see the launch of the RIBA Business and Career Resilience hub, something requested by members via our VP Membership. It details relevant resources around business resilience that can be applied in your practice and in your career and will be updated as, and when, new content is commissioned.    

I am also meeting with RIBA’s Interim Director for Education, Jenny Russell, RIBA’s Trustee for Education Sumita Singha, Chair of RIBA Board and former VP Education, Jack Pringle, and others this week to talk about plans for an upcoming event on rethinking future models of education. I read the findings of the ARB’s survey on the topic last week with interest, as I hope many of you did too. As I stressed in my initial response, the transformation and modernisation of architectural education, including more flexible, accessible, and inclusive study routes with a focus on competence and sustainability will help us attract the best talent and support a more representative profession. Flexibility and affordability must be our shared focus. I’ll be writing about this in my next RIBAJ column – landing at the beginning of July.    

A couple of reminders to end on:    

The deadline to apply for a seat on Council or to become the next RSAW or RIBA President is 5pm tomorrow. Please do consider putting yourself forward. The first hustings for RIBA President will take place at 1pm GMT on Tuesday 21 June and you’ll need to register 24 hours before.   

On Wednesday at 1pm GMT, we’ll be hosting our online Royal Gold Medal ceremony from London, United Kindgom and Ahmedabad, India to celebrate 2022 Royal Gold Medallist, Balkrishna Doshi. This event is free.    

The consultation on the ARB’s proposed revisions to Professional Indemnity insurance requirements closes on 4 July – we’ll be responding, and we urge you to do the same. While revisions are critical to enable us to move forward as an industry, we must get it right, or else we risk forcing smaller practices into closure or moving to the unregulated sector.   

Please leave me feedback and questions. I want to ensure this weekly note is useful and relevant – and focusses on the issues that matter to you.   

Best wishes, 


Memo to Members – Tuesday 7 June


I hope you enjoyed the long weekend.   

Thanks for the feedback on my previous posts – please keep it coming. The aim is to share what is going on, in and around the RIBA and what I am focussing on.   

Firstly this week, I want to touch on plans for the RIBA Collections. As many of you know, this world class collection of over four million books, journals, photographs, drawings, archives, models, and other objects is currently stored in several locations: 66 Portland Place, 76 Portland Place, the Piper Centre, Victoria & Albert Museum, and in a commercial store in Upper Heyford. Not only does this mean our material is somewhat inconveniently dispersed, but current storage facilities are fast becoming too small to house and showcase future donations.    

Reuniting the collections in a long term home and improving how they are accessed and displayed remains central to the long term House of Architecture vision. From school groups to researchers – our members and the public from across the globe must be able to benefit and seek enjoyment from the RIBA’s growing asset both physically and digitally.    

This week’s ‘news,’ so to speak, is therefore about the RIBA’s and V&A’s mutually agreed decision to end our V&A+RIBA Architecture partnership. The RIBA will seek a new facility where access and presentation of the collections can be improved. I want to take this moment to personally thank the V&A – RIBA’s partners for over 20 years – for their collective passion and drive to support architecture. Both institutions have so much to offer and it’s our shared ambition to continue to collaborate in new ways in the future.    

Now, refocusing on this week’s agenda.   

Yesterday, I attended a roundtable with Minister Lee Rowley at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We spoke about hindrances to productivity including how businesses often think in the short rather than long term about investment or innovation. If we have less investment, it’s not surprising we have lower rates of productivity. One question became clear: how can we incentivise businesses to improve productivity? The solutions? Suggestions ranged from setting up a productivity commission on statutory footing, to promoting the sharing of best practice and knowledge among SMEs, to providing government-backed business advice. My own preference is for a Business Improvement Cluster – a different take on the successful BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) There is clearly more work to do in this area and we will continue to work with government to drive these ideas forward – watch this space.  

I’m also really looking forward to hosting the latest Building Stories: The Awards Talks event tonight, where I’ll be speaking with the architects behind two of the 2021 Stirling shortlisted projects, Windermere Jetty Museum in the Lake District and Key Worker Housing in Eddington, Cambridge. This particular session will be held in-person from 6pm at 66 Portland Place – do join us if you can.   

Looking ahead to next week, Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – a particularly prominent anniversary given where we are with changes to the building safety system. Further changes to the Building Regulations announced by the DLUHC last week include mandatory Evacuation Alert Systems in new residential buildings above 18m and new statutory guidance to restrict the combustibility of materials used in and on the external walls of those between 11 to 18m in height. While these changes must be broadly welcomed, they still don’t represent the comprehensive review of Approved Document B for which RIBA’s been long calling for. As we approach another anniversary of the tragedy, we continue to call for clarity: we must end the broad range of interpretations to meeting fire safety regulations.  

A couple of reminders to end with. On Wednesday next week, I will be hosting the 2022 Royal Gold Medal online celebration, live from Ahmedabad, India and London. We’ll be celebrating renowned architect Balkrishna Doshi, through awarding him the 2022 Royal Gold Medal and speaking directly with him about his lifetime achievements and his philosophy on architecture. The event is free to attend and open to all, so please do join us.  

RIBA is also celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride throughout June – highlighting the work of LGBTQ+ communities, sharing allyship guidance and resources and spotlighting Pride events.   

Finally, don’t forget to submit your application for Council seats and/or Presidency by 5pm next Tuesday, 14 June. RIBA needs you.    

Very best 


Memo to Members – Monday 30 May

Good afternoon – hope you had a great weekend. 

This is the second in a new series of short updates – from my desktop to yours. I note as you read this, I am on a half term break with my family. So, I’ll share what I have been focusing on recently, and highlights from the RIBA’s agenda right now. 

Last week I joined this year’s Regional Award winners at a special event to celebrate their achievements and announce each region's Building of the Year. Winning a RIBA Award is a major accomplishment – it has definitely been one of my own career highlights – and I was seriously impressed by the talent on show in this year’s selection. Visited by expert juries when the buildings are in use, our awards programme sets the standard for the sector – my congratulations to everyone involved. The winning projects are now being considered for the RIBA National Awards - to be announced next month.  

Last week I also responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s latest report - Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction. The RIBA participated in the committee's call for evidence, and we were pleased to see that our key recommendations on embodied carbon have been adopted – a crucial area where the government’s policies on sustainability in the built environment have, to date fallen short. We will continue to work with government and the wider construction industry, to I hope, implement and deliver these recommendations.  

I’ve also been continuing to meet with members from around the globe. Last week I met with members from Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. These discussions offer brilliant insights into how RIBA can best support and promote the work of members wherever they work or live. And lots of suggestions and ideas are emerging. 

I also met again with Past-President Marco Goldschmied. Marco is always super generous on many fronts. As many of you will know he has most recently done a lot of hard work and smart thinking on PII. Indeed he introduced me to the key advisors and thinkers who are helping us construct a new approach to the PII challenge.  

Up next: RIBA Elections. The nomination window for potential candidates to stand for election opens tomorrow. As someone who stood on the sidelines before getting stuck in, I highly recommend putting yourself forward for a seat on RIBA Council or to become the next RSAW President or RIBA President. Key to the institute's success is ensuring that people with a range of backgrounds, experiences, and skillsets are contributing and getting involved. Whether you stand or not, please do vote when the time comes (reminders will be sent). RIBA is a democratic institute – and by taking part in the elections, you can help shape the organisation you want to see. 

As I mentioned in my last update, the institute’s transformation continues at pace - not least in terms of making best use of our property assets. This is all part of work to reduce our annual deficit and make sure we are investing our resources where they are of greatest benefit to members. This week we have been progressing with our plans to sell 76 Portland Place, and reviewing the storage of our ever growing world class architectural collections and archives. 

In a major development for our HQ at 66 Portland Place, we officially appointed Benedetti Architects last week to lead the project to modernise and transform our building into a thriving and accessible House of Architecture. I’m asked why we are investing in this building, when we are also facing financial challenges. 66 Portland Place is our long term home and, under the terms of the lease, an asset we cannot sell. To be frank, it’s underperforming – decaying, leaky, and inaccessible – and urgently needs some work to bring it up to scratch. As a membership body that exists to promote excellence in architecture for the benefit of the profession and the public, our house needs to be in order. The next step is to build on our brief (to create an exemplary low carbon, inclusive space for debate and inspiration) taking on board all the feedback received so far and engaging smaller practices to assist with specific aspects. The vision for the House of Architecture spans beyond the London building. While 66 Portland Place will often play host, we will also have a developing programme of engaging, audience-focussed exhibitions and events, delivered both physically and digitally, for all those with an interest in our work.   

That brings me on to John Harris, a former RIBA Curator who sadly passed away earlier this month. You may have seen his obituary in the national media. It was under John’s expert guardianship that our architectural collection – our greatest asset – grew into one of the world's finest. My thoughts are with his family and all those who knew and worked with him. I believe he would have been a supporter of RIBA’s House of Architecture – getting even more people to engage with our archives.   

Finally, I wish you all a restful bank holiday weekend when it comes. If you are celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, keep an eye on RIBA’s Twitter and Instagram, where our RIBA Collections team will be sharing some beautiful original illustrations of the street decorations designed for the Queen’s coronation in 1952 by British architect Sir Hugh Casson.   

Please leave me your questions – I want to make sure these updates focus on the things that matter to you. 

Best wishes, 


Memo to Members – Monday 23 May

Hello. I thought a short and regular update about what I’ve been doing and what’s happening in and around RIBA might be a good thing to share. So, by no means exhaustive and in no particular order, here’s my first instalment.

PII is top of the list for many architects and it’s a key priority for me too. RIBA has a group working hard on this, led by Jennifer Dixon, architect, Council, and Board member. The group is developing a radical idea on risk management, linking competence to dispute resolution mechanisms which we think could really help – I’ll update more as soon as things develop. On the same topic, last week the ARB announced proposed changes to insurance requirements for architects (read my initial response). We know that not all practices can secure limited fire safety cover at present so we will be responding to the consultation by 4 July and I urge you to respond directly too. If you want to join a conversation with other members about this, log in to the Member Hub. If you haven’t signed up to a discussion forum yet – now’s a good time.

EDI, including widening access to the profession, is a central focus for RIBA. Last week I met with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to talk of plans for the future regulation of the profession. Widening access to the profession and enhancing competence were key themes, and we expressed our strong desire to help lead architectural education reforms to allow more flexible study structures that support better access and inclusion. Apprenticeships and the disruptor courses can sit alongside the more traditional models of learning – offering people more affordable but equally relevant pathways into the profession. Next steps: we’ll be promoting such change through our engagement with the ARB on its Review of Initial Education and Training. I’ve also heard from lots of members who are already running various outreach access courses and engaging the next generation in primary and secondary schools. Moving ahead, RIBA can help share and support these initiatives – we have a Council-led group looking at this.

I also wanted to touch on RIBA’s transformation. When I stood for election as RIBA President, I was clear that the RIBA needed to be leaner, more agile, and more member focused. Well, I’m pleased to say that we are well on our way. The corporate team restructure is almost complete and we're in the process of reducing the property footprint – all to help get the annual deficit down from £8m to zero – a target that’s firmly in sight. This financial challenge sits equal to the overarching strategy to harness the diverse skills and talents of engaged members and support you in what you do. I’ll update you with key developments.

Coming up: we have a busy few weeks ahead. We’ll be kicking off Pride month celebrations tonight with a discussion on our recently published Queer Spaces book. Join us in person at 66 Portland Place.

Tomorrow architects, clients, consultants, and contractors will be celebrating the Regional Awards – see full coverage of the awards in RIBAJ. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you then. This is a key moment in the sun for many practices, particularly up and coming firms who have maybe never won an award before. The media love to cover these projects and clients appreciate the kudos and exposure too. Plus we get to show the public, decision makers, and potential new clients of architecture why using architects and commissioning great architecture is so very important. Hats off to everyone.

I’m currently delivering a (virtual) talk series for members around the world. Following conversations with members in the Middle East and China, I’ll be speaking to members in the USA and Australasia this week. This is a real highlight of my role – connecting and learning from colleagues in our global community.

Speaking of which, I’ve just returned from the UIA Forum in Madrid, following a flying visit last week to India to present Balkrishna Doshi with the 2022 Royal Gold Medal. Mr. Doshi was unable to travel to London to receive the honour, so the medal (and I) went to him. We’ll be formally celebrating his achievement next month – register now for the online ceremony. The Madrid event was a RIBA International-led contribution to the UIA Forum: a hybrid event titled Affordable Housing - Mismatch. It featured ten speakers from Europe, Asia, Australasia, and South America talking of designing, building, living in, and regulating housing. A reminder as Balkrishna Doshi advised that architecture begins only when life takes over – and that’s a good thing to remember.

More from me next week. Please let me know if there is something you would like to hear about specifically.

Best wishes,


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